Sunday will be the final step in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can get their first win ever in Gillette Stadium. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
Coming into this season knowing the Bills were going to draft a QB and most likely be our starter, I would of thought Coach Marrone was going to bring in a OC with NFL experience and a reputation with teaching young QB’s. I was really shock when he named Hackett his QB coach and OC. I was not thrilled with this move and I still do not think he is the right guy for this job. He does not use the players the way he should , like CJ Spiller who was unstoppable last year and this year he’s been shut down for the most part mainly in the receiving area. His play calling is horrible and his short passing is getting old real quick. Atlanta game Goodwin and Graham both should of had career games as bad as Atlanta’s pass defense was and correct me if I’m wrong but did either one have a catch over 10 yards. he is not the guy for the job and I hope Marrone sees this and fixes this problem after the season. I like EJ Manuel and I feel with an experienced guy working with him he can become the QB this team needed in a long time, I just don’t think Hackett can do this. Your thoughts and thanks for doing a great job.
CB: I’m going to disagree with you on this one. I think there is a reason that the Bills were one of the most frequent rushing teams in the league. It’s because they had a rookie quarterback. I believe as the season wore on the hope was that EJ Manuel would progress in his play to the point where they could become a more balanced offense, but that went out the window with Manuel’s midseason knee injury. Now his third knee injury has cost him more time on the field.
So running the ball became the offense’s identity, and to their credit they’ve done a great job with it. They lead the AFC in rushing yards per game. This despite the fact, as you mention, that C.J. Spiller has not been the weekly game-breaking talent that he was last season.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that has been the case. Spiller by all accounts is pretty healthy now, but his effectiveness as a runner has not improved a whole lot from where he was at when he was dealing with the high ankle sprain.
I think in Hackett’s defense he had a lot more to deal with at the quarterback position than anyone anticipated. When Manuel was hurt, he didn’t have a veteran QB to lean on, which was the plan with Kevin Kolb. So he instead he had to invest extra time trying to get another inexperienced QB ready in Thad Lewis and in one case Jeff Tuel (vs. KC).
I’m confident that if coach Marrone knew he wasn’t going to have a veteran QB in the room healthy and ready to back up and provide counsel to EJ Manuel that he may have given greater consideration to hiring a quarterbacks coach. Not because Nathaniel Hackett isn’t capable, but because of how much time and instruction would be required to school up three inexperienced QBs.
As for Hackett’s qualifications as an offensive play caller, he is more than qualified and I’ll again remind you that with a rookie QB who is learning on the job you are inherently limited in how much of the playbook you can use week to week.
2 – Dear Chris,
Thanks for all of your great coverage! My question was about Chris Gragg. Why aren’t the bills using him more? All he’s done is make plays and I think he’s going to be a great weapon for EJ
CB: Coach Marrone has said it has been their intention to get Gragg as well as Marquise Goodwin more playing time for several weeks now, but it’s been easier said than done. Here were some recent comments he made about Gragg.
“With Chris (Gragg) it’s been tough for us at times to get him up and more involved at times, but when he has been in there he’s shown that he’s able to play and he’s able to be a tough matchup as far as how he can run,” said Marrone. “His blocking from a standpoint of willingness and movement is probably better than what his height and weight show that he should be able to do at that position so that’s encouraging also.”
3 – Hi Chris,
My question is in regards to the Bills offense. It seems that EJ is becoming more comfortable in throwing the ball “between” the numbers and play action. He threw some nice strikes to Chandler and Gragg against the Jags. Why does it seem that it takes getting into late 2nd Quarter or in the second half to start calling more of those plays? Is it because the running game has to be established first for those plays to be successful? Or is it just the way that Coach Hackett likes to call the plays?
Thanks, Tim in Niagara Ontario
CB: Once again I’ll defer to coach Marrone on EJ Manuel’s slow starts in games this season. Here’s what coach said after his most recent slow start at Jacksonville.
“I think you can see it in spots at times. But there’s no doubt that he got off to… I wouldn’t say slow, and he knows it, we talked to him, he got off to a very poor start,” said Marrone. “But the one thing about the kid, which you’ve seen over the course of him playing is he can fight his way through that and learn. Now are there some things that caught us yesterday the second time around where we would’ve liked not to make the same mistake, absolutely. But again he’s a young kid, he’s in here today working hard already watching the film getting ready to go. That’s what you want from your quarterback and keep getting better and keep playing through that.”
4 – Thanks Chris for all your Coverage of our Buffalo Bills!
When Aaron Williams went down on Sunday, Jim Leonhard came in and once again made 2 huge plays. It shows how important depth is on an NFL football team. Every time he has played, he has made big plays. Do the Bills make a Valiant effort to resign some of these key backup players like Leonhard?
Thanks, Eileen in St.Catharines Ontario
CB: Leonhard has been known for the big play since his college days at Wisconsin. He had 16 interceptions in his college career. He’s a savvy player who makes plays despite not being the most physically gifted safety around. He is a free agent after the season.
His return to the Bills could be directly tied to what happens with Jairus Byrd another free agent safety for Buffalo. If Byrd is re-signed I think it lessens the likelihood that Leonhard is also back knowing there are two young safeties on the roster in Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. If Byrd is not back, then Leonhard becomes a much more viable option to re-sign as I see it.
5 – Chris,
I’m wondering why the Bills are using Graham more than Goodwin? IMO, the Bills are not effectively using Goodwin, as they continue to throw him an occasional deep pass to him every game. In the last Jets game, where Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods were out due to injuries, Goodwin had his best receiving game of the year as Goodwin was catching passes all over the field, and IMO, the Bills had one of their best offensive outputs of the season. I feel Goodwin can be more effective catching passes in the slot, and other parts of the field, besides going for the deep routes a couple of times a game. So far, Graham has proven to be very inconsistent as he has dropped numerous passes, and does not get the same consistent separation as Goodwin does. At this point, it seems EJ Manuel has more chemistry with Woods and Goodwin, than he does with Johnson and Graham. I would rather see Woods and Goodwin as the Bills top 2 WR’s, with Johnson in the slot as this could help Manuel’s development.
Thanks for all the hard work that you do covering the Bills!
CB: Goodwin has produced when given more time on the field. I think he has demonstrated dependable hands this season even in traffic. The slot might be an interesting spot for Goodwin to line up more often moving forward, though Woods could be effective inside too. The depth chart at receiver that you’re suggesting could shift in that direction going into next season. It’ll all come down to competition at training camp.
Tags: Chris Gragg, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jim Leonhard, Marquise Goodwin, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills